19. R.E.M. – Around the Sun
Peter Buck didn’t hold back his feelings on Around the Sun during R.E.M.’s Accelerate press tour: “It seemed like we’d turned into one of those bands that just book like a million months in the studio and just beat it to death.” Brutal, but true. The band’s unlucky 13th album is a forced, overproduced effort with zero identity. No matter what critics may say about Up and Reveal, at least those records contain a group of songs that feel finished. For the first time, the band sounds bored. We’re bored. Songs like “Wanderlust” and “The Worst Joke Ever” appeared to be the death knell for the band after 20-plus years. Fortunately, the Athens trio would significantly cut down on their studio time during the recordings of their final two records (Accelerate and Collapse into Now), proving once again that the first take is usually better than the 92nd.
Saving grace? Some songs come to life on R.E.M. Live, particularly “The Ascent of Man”.